This week I (twice) attended the excellent Art MA show at Oxford Brookes University. I would recommend it, if it hadn’t now concluded. Of the 12 student exhibitors, all were very good indeed, most were excellent and a few were exceptional – in my opinion, of course. The course centres around the work of Joseph Beuys and his notion of social sculpture; not so much what we thing of as sculpture, but more exploring creative and artistic means that allow people to have new interactions with the art and therefore their perceptions and the world around them, thus using the medium to shape, mould or ‘sculpt’ society. He saw this as a means to working towards a more ecological, sustainable global community…. right up my street!
One of the exhibits featured a series of work stations… each a high wooden stool with something like an easel in front of it, on which was a square cardboard tube at an angle. small boxes, like matchboxes, would fall out of the bottom in turn, and once examined could be place back in the top. On each box was written one word – imagination, freedom, anomally, opportunity, transformation etc etc – and inside a tiny, found object – a pebble, piece of stick, bottle top etc – with a precise position (presumably) of where it was found and a date. some of the links between the words and the object were clear, others, very obscure, requiring much thought. Each work station had a pencil and notebook with which to record these reflections. I loved it, and spent much time, essentially ‘playing’ in here.
One of the other exhibitors invited me to ‘do an action’ (a key part of social sculpture is active interaction) by taking and keeping one of the boxes. I thought I would love to. So I randomly swapped to another workstation and decided I would keep the very next box.
As the box dropped down the chute, I picked it up and read, on the top, the single word, ‘creativity’. What could possibly be better! What could be more suited to myself and the thought processes I was having at that time! I held it carefully in my hands, wondering what might be inside, wanting to build up to and cherish the moment when I discovered what tiny object, for the artist, had embodied the notion of creativity.
And then it occured to me, that the most creative thing I could do with this tiny box was to NOT open it. In fact, to NEVER open it. To take it away with me, to carry it round through the different phases of my life, maybe even all of my life, and to never KNOW but always to IMAGINE what might be in there. to not question the source of the inspiration, the creativity, the inspired moment, but to let it be, to accept it for what it could be, not to pin it down to what it mundanely, prosaically is.
So that is what I did. It sits now beside my drawing spot in my studio. I intend to look at it from time to time, to wonder, to let this hidden, tacit object of creativity inspire my thinking, my imagining. As id does so, from time to time, I may write down these reflections on pieces of paper which I then wrap around the box, so that, overtime, the invisible, hidden object, the forgotten moment of inspiration, becomes ever more deeply embedded in layer upon layer of its own creations…
It occurred to me later that I have always had a dream, to live in a house in which there is one door, one room, that is never, ever opened. That even when I first visited the house, I did not look into. That forever I would live in that house with the unknown mystery of what was behind the door, what was in the room. I will never own a house large enough to do such a thing. But it occurs to me that, with this small box, the artists have given me the secret place, the hidden room that I have always wanted. And that space is a tiny box of creativity…. it is within.